Home Stuff Alienbees Review

Alienbees Review


If you've been shooting any sports, or in public with other photographers recently, then you've probably heard some "buzz" about Alienbees.  Alienbees flashes have been on the market for a while now, and have accumulated an almost "cult-like" following, and for good reason too.  

Alienbees in action

First off, when we are ordering new products, we look for several key components.  Price, quality, effectiveness, and customer service.  We have found that Alienbees offers great prices, reliable and effective products, and out-of-this-world customer service.  Making it a slam dunk for photographers.  

Price-wise, even the most expensive Alienbees (with a battery pack for portability: read battery review here) are competitive with the top hot-shoe flashes on the market, but provide far more power!  Plus, you can run multiple flash heads off one batter making it even cheaper.  Obviously hot-shoe flashes have certain advantages that these don't, like TTL, zoom, and ultra compact portability.  But that's what you have to deal with when using large and WAY more powerful studio heads that will overpower the midday sun with ease.

When shooting action sports with Alienbees, the flash duration (length the flash is fired for in one pop) is one of the most important things to keep in mind.  Too long a duration and the action becomes blurry since flashes require slow shutter speeds.  With studio strobes, the fastest (and best for action) duration occurs at the highest power settings.

Alienbees offers 4 models: B1600 (640WS), B800 (320WS), B400 (160WS), and the new Einstein which is the same power output as the B1600 but has more features.  The top of the line model is the Einstein, but if you don't require all it's extra features, and tons of power, the B800 is probably the best option at 2/3 of the price.  The flash duration is twice as fast as the B1600, and the flash weighs and costs less.  Plus, it has double the power of the B400, which is much needed in bright situations.  

If you have the extra money, the Alienbees Einstein flashes allow you to choose a mode with faster durations called "action" mode, or a slower duration but more consistent color output mode.  It also has the same power as the B1600 which is the most the company offers in the Alienbees product line.

We wouldn't recommend the B400 as a starter flash, becuase you might find it isn't powerful enough for many situations, especially if the athlete is far from the unit.  If this is your market, it's probably best to go with a hot shoe flash because they are more portable anyway.

With any studio flashes, the duration gets faster with a higher power setting.  This means that you will want to shoot at the highest power setting you can to really freeze the action.  We mention flash duration so much, because with action sports the subjects are generally moving fast so it's one of the most important features to look for with flash.  If you have too much light, just move the flash back further to keep that fast duration.


The Bottom Line

APS recommends the B800 and a VagaBond Mini Powerpack as a great starter kit for action photographers.  The flash has a fast enough duration for action use, and is more portable when combined with the VagaBond Mini then almost every other option on the market. And on top of that it gives you a ton of flashes per charge.  All of this, plus a price that is FAR lower than almost every other studio flash, and customer service that always has your back.  If you do have more money, check out the B1600 for a boost in power.




Previous articleChase Jarvis RAW: 12 Tasty Tips
Next articleSean Cronan Skate Tips – Zoo York
Hi everyone, I am a freelance commercial photographer and specialize in actions sports/lifestyle imagery. For me it’s all about putting my vision in front of the lens to get unique photos. What makes a photo unique for me is not only the photo itself, but also the way I capture it. This kind of mentality has gotten me dangerously close to the action and into some amazing situations. I have a great passion for action sports, and photography helps me stay close to the action and involved in the industry. Photography is not only something that I do, it’s my lifestyle.


  1. with pocket wizards and hypersync, you can negate the slow flash durations by upping the shutter speed!

    the einsteins have the reverse effect since they get faster flash durations with less power.

  2. A little confused on the review and the comments. Want to confirm that shorter flash durations result in better stopping of action.
    I thought I’ve read recently the way a flash gets ‘brighter’ is by upping the power which results in a longer flash duration which is not ideal for stopping action. Less power, shorter flash duration, better stopping power for action. But, this could require upping the ISO or the iris because of the loss of power (brightness).

  3. Go to the Paul C Buff site, click AlienBees choose one of the three flash then click Specifications. For their three lights, 400 800 and 1600, you will see Flash Duration in both the t.5 and t.1. Also, you will see full power flash duration for the AB 800 is faster than the AB1600, yet slower than the AB400.

    Hotshoe flash use a IGBT for their flash cut off, they close their gate, thus as we lower the power the flash duration becomes shorter; not all power is dumped. My mind tells me my SB800 at lowest power may be 1/40,000 of a second.

    Studio strobes use a different technology, however the Einstein does use IGBT. Studio flash has to dump all its power with each flash of the tube. There at Paul C Buff site is much information about flash duration. 

    Hope the above is useful.


    Bubba Jones


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here